IAEA head not running for new term

Daily News Egypt
4 Min Read

VIENNA: The chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose handling of Iran’s nuclear program has provoked occasional US displeasure, plans to step down later this year, according to a confidential document obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

Egyptian Mohamed ElBaradei’s current term ends Nov.

30 and the “Director General is not available for a further term of office, said the document dated Sept. 5 and circulated among the 35-nation IAEA board. Diplomats linked to the IAEA who are familiar with ElBaradei have recently said they did not expect the reclusive agency head to stand for another term. Still, he had kept his plans close to his chest before the formal announcement that he would not run for re-election.

Austere and methodical, the diplomat has taken a sometimes strident line while guiding the Vienna-based agency through the most serious troubles it has faced since the end of the Cold War.

He has also had to contend with US opposition, althoughthat ended three years ago when IAEA member nations formally approved his reappointment for a third term.

The decision to award him and his agency the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize for their nonproliferation efforts strengthened his hand against his critics.

Much of the opposition stemmed from Washington’s perception that he was being too soft on Iran for not unequivocally declaring it in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. That stance helped block a US bid to haul Tehran before the UN Security Council for more than two years until the board finally voted to do so in February 2006.

He also refused to endorse Washington’s contention that Iran was working to make nuclear weapons and disputed US assertions that Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq had an active atomic weapons program.

Most recently, it is his focus on Iran – and IAEA efforts to establish whether that country has a secret nuclear weapons program – that has kept him in the international nonproliferation limelight

He has been at the helm of the agency during its transition from a nondescript bureaucracy monitoring nuclear sites worldwide into a pivotal force at the forefront of disarmament efforts.

ElBaradei accused North Korea of nuclear brinkmanship in December 2002 after it expelled two inspectors who were monitoring its mothballed nuclear complex.

He also directed the agency as it launched inspections in Iraq alongside the hunt for biological and chemical agents conducted by the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission.

Born in Egypt in 1942, ElBaradei earned a bachelor s degree in law in 1962 from Cairo University.

After a stint in the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he received a doctorate in International Law at the New York University School of Law in 1974, and later became an adjunct professor there.

ElBaradei joined the IAEA in 1984 and rose from within the ranks of the 139-nation agency.

In the run-up to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, ElBaradei blossomed in the hothouse of media scrutiny. The man who once stumbled before television cameras started to speak in sound bites, growing ever bolder in his statements.

But he held fast to the nuclear agency s guiding principle that science and research needed to be respected – even as pressure mounted to act against Saddam Hussein.

As the agency s critics argued the IAEA was moving too slowly to counter new nuclear threats, ElBaradei appealed for patience, arguing that scientific examination was critical to the agency s work. Bear with us, he said. What we do is the cornerstone of all arms control activities.

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